Five ways to future-proof your business when you have a high staff turnover

April 12, 2024

Today’s workforce is more dynamic than ever before. Gone are the days of employees staying in one role for decades. Instead, younger generations, in particular, prioritise continuous learning and experiences over long-term job security. The average length of service remains between three years* before employees choose to move elsewhere for a new opportunity.

While a fluctuating staff turnover could be a red flag, it also presents a unique chance for businesses to embrace fresh perspectives and rapid innovation.

“Gone are the days of long-term job security,” says Katy Edwards, founder of learning & development firm Forest Digby. “Today’s younger workforce are seeking continual learning and growth. The challenge is for employers to recognise this shift and leverage it to their advantage so they can futureproof their business.”

To help businesses identify how they can maintain business growth despite fluctuating staff turnover, Katy has devised five practical tips that businesses can use to aid their stability and futureproof their workforce.

Tip #1 – Embrace short term perspectives.

Katy believes that employers should recognise that temporary or short-term staff can bring huge value to businesses. Bringing in recruits with diverse skillset and ranges of experience spanning different sectors can push businesses forward with innovative ideas. The challenge is to work out how to get the best of each employee before they move elsewhere.

“When you can predict that a worker will have a time-limited employment with you, its easier to establish how you can maximise their skills and knowledge” says Katy. “In an ideal world, employees will do whatever it takes to hold onto their staff, but having a continuous boost of new talent and fresh ideas can help you to continually push your business in new directions. It allows for continuous innovation and progression.”

Tip #2 – Make the most of flexible workforces.

If you’re worried that fluctuating workforces mean losing valuable skills and knowledge, why not invest in more flexible working patterns that allow individuals the opportunity to work in a way that suits them. For instance, many younger generations are now actively pursuing a side hustle where they can combine employment with self-employment. In these scenarios, a job share could be an effective compromise that allows you to maintain consistency while minimising the risk of employees choosing to move on.

Katy says: “The humble job share is a great way of futureproofing your business. When you can offer employees far more flexibility, such as a reduced workload or giving them the freedom and time to study or learn new skills, you’ll be more likely to retain staff for much longer.”

Tip #3 – Knowledge Transfer is Key

If you have a fluctuating staff turnover, one of the things you need to consider is how to retain any in-built knowledge that your staff may have picked up during their employment. This is particularly relevant if your workforce spans different generations and you’re coping with the dual issues of combining younger staff members (who may be more likely to leave) with older generations who may be approaching retirement.

In these circumstances, it’s important to create working environments and open communication where all generations can share knowledge and learn from one another. That way, no matter who chooses to leave, your business will be more likely to retain the level of knowledge and skills that is needed to maintain success.

Tip #4 – Avoid working in siloes.

While its always beneficial to employ specialists, especially in niche areas, that can put your business at risk if one person with a specific area of knowledge leaves. Katy recommends that businesses should think about upskilling all staff members, so they are well aware of the latest trends/activities from their department. That way, you are actively minimising any skills loss, regardless of employee churn.

Tip #5 – Changing attitudes can be a direct result of short attention spans.

Finally, it’s worth realising that younger generations typically have shorter attention spans than older workers. Therefore, new recruits are entering the workforce knowing that it won’t be a job for life, but a job for right now.

The trick for employers is to provide a continuous stream of projects or activities that will prevent employees from feeling bored or professionally dissatisfied. Consistently offering opportunities for employees to upskill themselves, or offering a series of side projects alongside their current role will give them more interest and motivation to stay.

If businesses are serious about futureproofing themselves from an ever-changing workforce, it’s essential to understand the reasons why a candidate may be more likely to leave. This is where continuous communication, beginning within the interview process before progressing into ongoing staff appraisals can be valuable.

Katy concludes: “There can be significant advantages to continuously bringing in fresh ideas and new talent. But a lack of consistency may come at a cost. Therefore, managers need to talk openly with staff about what they’re looking for. If an individual’s CV shows that they are prone to job-hopping, then why not ask them about it during an interview. Finding out the reasons why they are likely to leave, and creating a value-added proposition could aid your recruitment strategies. At the very least, it will give you a chance to plan accordingly.”

“It also highlights the need for regular performance reviews and an L&D budget. We need to encourage a continual flow of communication between individuals and managers about what you’re looking for from your job role and how they’d like to develop and in what areas. If there’s any level of dissatisfaction, an employee will be more likely to move on. It’s too late to wait until someone hands in their notice to find out their reason for leaving. By predicting those potential reasons, you can put strategies in place that will minimise any employee turnover.”

Katy works with businesses across the UK, offering help and support in areas such as people strategy and planning, leadership development, learning and development, and talent and succession strategy.

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* The average length of service remains between two-three years. Source: CIPD analysis of APS Jan-Dec 2022